The number of tobacco users in Ghana increases by the day, despite the health implications associated with it. Compared to the western countries, where most people smoke tobacco and Winston cigarettes due to the excessive cold weather, smokers in Ghana have other reasons for smoking – either for pleasure or to get rid of an excessive nasty smell – which they later get addicted to.

The number of tobacco smokers in Ghana, definitely, cannot be compared to smokers in the west, however, the adverse effects of smoking, unfortunately, does not affect users only, but people who find themselves present during the moment of smokers’ activity.

This, in the long run, increases drastically, the number of people in danger of tobacco-related diseases.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), passive or non-smokers are at a greater risk of getting lung cancer, coronary heart diseases, and even cardiac death.

Over 600 studies undertaken by experts link passive smoking to ill health, and conclude that passive smoking, or the inhalation of tobacco smoke by non smokers, increases the risk of lung cancer, heart diseases, and respiratory disease.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates also show that 200,000 workers die as a result of exposure to passive smoking in the workplace.

According to WHO, at least one person dies every eight seconds due to tobacco-related diseases. About 13,400 people die each day, and 560 people die each hour globally.

By the year 2030, tobacco is expected to be the leading cause of death in the whole world. According to the World Health Organisation, smoking is a greater cause of death and disability than any single disease, as it is responsible for approximately five million deaths worldwide, every year. Tobacco smoking is a known, or probable cause, of approximately 25 diseases.

The danger tobacco users are putting on non-tobacco users, makes it evident that the probability of the nation losing its labour force and future leaders in the future is high. On the other hand, if the government will think it through, and concentrate on passing the Tobacco Control Bill into a law, then the citizen’s fate of getting tobacco-related diseases would be minimised.

Provision of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) makes it mandatory for all signatory countries to formulate legislations that will protect the citizenry from the numerous health hazards associated with tobacco use. Ghana was the 39th country in the world to sign the convention, and the first country in West Africa sub-region to ratify it in 2004.

Despite this, all attempts since then to enact a law to regulate tobacco use in the country, has witnessed several challenges, causing many to doubt the government’s commitment to achieving the set the goals spelt out in the convention.

According to the First Vice Chairman of the Media Alliance in Tobacco Control (MATCO), Jorge Wilson Kingson, by signing on to the Framework Convention On Tobacco Control (FCTC), Ghana had committed itself to, among others, ‘adopt and implement effective legislative, executive, administration, and other measures, and cooperate, as appropriate, with other parties in developing appropriate policies for preventing and reducing tobacco consumption, nicotine addiction, and exposure to smoke.’

In doing so, the country would be achieving the overall objective of the convention, which is ‘to protect the present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environment, and economic consequences of tobacco consumption, and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Why the dalliance
Mr. Kingson noted that in the effort at meeting this demand, the National Tobacco Steering Committee (NTSC) started formulating a National Tobacco Bill in 2005 for the attention of the government.

It is almost six years now since the drafting of the bill was concluded, but, clearly, there is little indication that the bill is yet to get to Parliament for consideration.

He made it clear that a number of reasons had been deduced as the cause of the delay in the passage of the bill.

Among them, is the low level of awareness among stakeholders about tobacco control and FCTC issues, and the in adequate involvement of media, key law makers and public opinion to support the bill.

More importantly, is also the interference of the tobacco industry control policy issues in the country.

Then also, the issue of whether the bill should form part of the general public health bill or be made to stand alone. The public health bill is a consolidation of all existing legislations on the various issues concerning public health.

It includes existing legislation on mosquito control, quarantine, infectious diseases, vaccinations, and food and drugs law.